According to the Web site wordorigins.org, “Scuttlebutt is an early 19th century nautical term for an open cask of water kept on deck for use by the crew. The term comes from scuttle – to cut a hole in – and butt – a large cask. Sailors would gather about the cask and trade stories and gossip, much like modern office workers do at the water cooler or coffee pot. By the turn of the 20th century, American sailors began using the term scuttlebutt to refer to these sea stories and gossip. Eventually the term became associated with any gossip or rumor.”

Listening sessions scheduled on aquaculture policy

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will hold six listening sessions in April and May to hear recommendations from the public that will help the agency develop a new national policy for sustainable marine aquaculture.

Marine aquaculture is the cultivation of marine organisms, such as shellfish and finfish, for food and other products. Aquaculture techniques are also widely used in the United States to help restore valuable wild fisheries and habitat, including oysters.

The listening session closest to Maine will take place April 14 in Narragansett, R.I. Other NOAA listening sessions will be held in New Orleans, Seattle, Honolulu and Menlo Park, Calif. On May 6 NOAA will host a national call-in on a toll-free line.

Details on the specific locations and times for the regional listening sessions and instructions for submitting comments electronically will be posted on the NOAA Aquaculture Program Web site, aquaculture.noaa.gov. The agency also will accept public comment through the Web.

Governor attends oil spill drill

PORTLAND — On March 25, Gov. John Baldacci joined Portland Mayor Nick Mavodones, Major Gen. Donald Edwards, U.S Army-retired, members of the commercial fishing industry, and wildlife representatives to thank the U.S. Coast Guard and all involved agencies for their efforts in preparing for the possibility of an oil spill of national significance. According to a March 25 press release, they also called on Congress to take action on comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation that will lessen dependence on foreign oil, create jobs in Maine, and lessen the possibility of a disaster on Maine’s coast.

Mavodones took the opportunity to thank the Coast Guard for working with the city of Portland to simulate the oil spill exercise and lamented the environmental and economic devastation such a spill would cause.

Edwards noted the significance of the drill exercise, and highlighted the national security importance of lessening America’s demand for foreign oil.

Red tide shellfish closures announced

AUGUSTA — The Maine Department of Marine Resources announced March 24 that shellfish flats from Harpswell to the New Hampshire border would be closed due to the harmful algal bloom known as red tide.

Also this week, Rep Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, along with Reps. Frank Pallone, D-New Jersey, and Carol Shea-Porter, D-New Hampshire, introduced the Coastal Jobs Creation Act of 2010. According to a press release from Pingree’s office, the program will support new research into fishing stocks, revitalization of coastal infrastructure and the removal of marine debris. All aspects of the program will be funded with the intention of directly creating jobs in coastal communities.

For more information about Maine’s red tide closures visit the Web site at maine.gov/dmr/rm/public_health/closures/pspclosures.htm.

New Bedford mayor calls for delay of catch shares in New England

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — New Bedford, Mass., Mayor Scott W. Lang has called on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator Jane Lubchenco to temporarily delay the catch share/sector management program while the fish allocations are calculated.

The Port of New Bedford has been the nation’s top fishing port in value of landings for nine years in a row, bringing in $241.3 million in 2008.

In his letter, Lang expressed appreciation for Assistant Administrator Eric Schwaab’s participation in the Northeast Fisheries Summit.

He noted that “at the summit, key NOAA officials admitted that the catch share/sector system is a ‘work in progress’ and that they will adjust the management allocations as the program develops. An admission of this magnitude by the regulatory authority is disconcerting, and is an irresponsible way to launch a new program that we know will cause certain harm to the people who work in the industry if not done properly.”

The mayor argued that “it is paramount that the system be implemented correctly based on solid scientific data, that NOAA has a real understanding of the socio-economic impacts of the system, and that it is fair to all fisheries.”

He concluded that, “Based on these very real concerns, I urge you to temporarily delay the implementation of the catch share/sector program until such time that these issues have been addressed and the government has a clear understanding of the effects of the new system on the fishing families of New Bedford. The individuals in this industry do not deserve to be subject to a system which is a ‘work in progress.'”

Send scuttlebutt to Herald Gazette reporter Shlomit Auciello at sauciello@villagesoup.com or call 207-236-8511.